Lucas di Grassi: Is he F1 material?

Lucas di Grassi won the GP2 feature race at the Hungaroring

Lucas di Grassi won the GP2 feature race at the Hungaroring

I keep a close eye on the GP2 championship as it is clearly the best series for spotting future F1 drivers. Plus, it’s very entertaining racing.

Last season?s champion Timo Glock has already made an impact on F1 but the man he beat to the title, Lucas di Grassi, didn?t make much of an impression on me.

I might have to revise my opinion of him soon however, as his return to the championship this year is going very well.

Di Grassi is part of the Renault Driver Development programme which brought Heikki Kovalainen and Nelson Piquet Jnr into F1.

Last year was di Grassi?s second season in GP2 and he raced for ART Grand Prix. The team had won the previous two GP2 championships with Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.

At the start of the season, either di Grassi or team mate Michael Ammermuller were therefore among the favourites to win the title. Ammermuller was injured early on, so di Grassi looked like being ART?s best bet.

Even taking into account Timo Glock?s form for iSport in the second half of 2006, and his pedigree as a driver who?s made four F1 starts already, I was underwhelmed by di Grassi?s efforts in 2007.

Glock suffered some galling car failures but di Grassi rarely seemed poised to capitalise. He often brought the car home in the points, but managed just a single win all year with the team that had dominated GP2 thus far.

After he failed to win the title he became one of Renault?s three F1 test drivers but, like Romain Grosjean and Sakon Yamamoto, he has seen little action in that role. But then came an opportunity to return to GP2 with the Campos team, after their driver Ben Hanley was dropped.

(Hanley is also an RDD man and it’s a shame that, after his decent performances in World Series by Renault last year, he only got a handful of GP2 starts to prove himself before being dropped. Presumably money was involved).

Di Grassi?s return to GP2 has been very successful. Yes, it should be, for he has done two years in the category already. But he is driving an entirely different design of chassis to what he had in 2006 and 2007, yet has scored 39 points in eight races, including a win and three second places. It’s put him third in the championship and still capable of winning it, though the odds are against him.

So could he have a role in F1 in the near future? Regardless of whether or not he belongs in Formula 1 on merit, marketability may be a problem. Renault already has a Brazilian driver in the shape of Nelson Piquet Jnr.

Two other teams have Brazilians (Ferrari?s Felipe Massa and Honda?s Rubens Barrichello) and di Grassi?s GP2 rival Bruno Senna is considered very likely to get an F1 drive. But then, there are already five German drivers in F1, so why not five Brazilians as well?

But perhaps the strongest argument against di Grassi is that he’s yet to win a championship in any significant junior formula. Yes, he won the 2005 Macau F3 Grand Prix which is a prestigious event, but it’s a one-off event and not a measure of a sustained, season-long championship-winning performance.

What do you think of Lucas di Grassi?

Read more about Lucas di Grassi: Lucas di Grassi (Meet the rookies)

Lucas di Grassi drives for Campos in GP2

Lucas di Grassi drives for Campos in GP2

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15 comments on Lucas di Grassi: Is he F1 material?

  1. Dorian said on 16th August 2008, 9:45

    I’ve only seen a handful of the GP2 races this year and of the races I have seen, Di Grassi has yet to impress me. I think I’d sooner see Senna, Grosjean and Pantano go into F1 over him

  2. I have watched all of the GP2 races this year, but I have scarcely noticed Lucas di Grassi at all. In fact, I was flabbergasted when I realised he was ahead of Grosjean and Buemi in the championship (with fewer races)! He clearly gets some decent, consistent results, but his anonymity makes me think that he is not quite cut out for F1.

  3. Paige said on 16th August 2008, 12:36

    I think di Grassi is the next in line for a Renault F1 drive, judging by their history of handling drivers. If Fernando moves on for next year, I would put money on di Grassi being the man to get the seat.

    I’ve watched him some this year, and he seems to me to be the best performer up to this point. He’s certainly got speed, and he hasn’t seemed to make any mistakes. I think he’s more F1 ready than Senna, who still seems to be pretty erratic.

  4. di Grassi isn’t the best driver in GP2, and he’s not even Renault’s best youngster. I’d put him behind Grosjean, Senna and Buemi in terms of F1′s next young hopefuls.

  5. Paige said on 16th August 2008, 14:52

    Jack,

    Grosjean has had tons of hype, but I just haven’t seen really anything special from him in GP2 this year. He’s had good qualifying efforts, but he just hasn’t looked that great in the races.

    Among GP2 drivers, Senna and Buemi seem to me to have the most potential, but I don’t think either are quite ready yet.

  6. Paige, I’d agree with you that he hasn’t been great in the current GP2 season, but Grosjean destroyed the rest of the field in GP2 Asia and showed he had a lot of talent. Unfortunately, he has been a disappointment since then.
    I also believe there’s a lot of pressure on Grosjean as a Frenchman driving as a Renault protegé. There’s also a lot of pressure on Senna because of his name, so I think Buemi, with a Red Bull team that’s clearly going places, may come from nowhere to be a force in F1 in the future.

  7. Paige said on 16th August 2008, 16:49

    I think one of Senna or Buemi will end up in the vacant STR seat for next year. At this point, my hunch is that it will be Buemi, as Red Bull is keen to keep the STR team as a part of their driver development program. However, if STR is on the selling block, then promoting Senna may be something that sells.

    I need to see more out of Grosjean to make a judgment on him. Right now, I definitely don’t think he’s F1-ready, although he’s shown speed with great qualifying efforts.

  8. santori said on 16th August 2008, 17:19

    Grosjean has been suprisingly erratic in the main GP2 but it hasn’t changed my high opinion of his abilities.

    I also rate Di Grassi highly. I suppose the fact that he isn’t the flashiest performer could count against him, in that he might not grab the attention of lazier team bosses, but it’s the results which should count and his are very good. His lack of championships might make people wonder about his ultimate potential but he certainly deserves a chance.

  9. donwatters said on 16th August 2008, 17:19

    Truth be told, one never knows how a driver will fare in F1 until he/she actually competes at that level.

  10. Racer X said on 16th August 2008, 18:16

    I totally agree with you Donwatters

  11. I’d say Senna has more of a chance but you never know do you, he is a fairly decent driver for sure but F1 material? Time will tell I guess…

  12. As we don’t get coverage of GP2 here, I really can’t say as I’ve not seen him drive.

    But certainly from a PR prospective, his name is not one that crops up regularly like Senna or Grosjean, so if I had to, I’d put money on them before di Grassi.

  13. His victory in Macau F3 was over no one else then Robert Kubica.
    He is very regular and that seems to be a good thing and also a bad thing.

  14. Jean said on 18th August 2008, 7:42

    Lifes not fair …. I always wanted to race in F1 and never got there …. along with billions of other people ! Trusth is , any driver who has progressed to GP2 , can go up to F1 – and usually the ones who win in GP2 obviously the better and more likely to be chosen. But how they will do in F1 will only really be known when he is actually racing , like Hamilton and Piquet are now.

  15. I’m not sure about Lucas di Grassi – despite watching him from his British F3 days he’s never really shown the potential star quality that the like of Lewis Hamilton, Nelson Piquet, Heikki Kovalainen, Nico Rosberg, etc did at similar stages in their careers.

    But then I have to confess finding it rather tricky to properly assess the merits of the current GP2 grid, despite the wonderful racing. Giorgio Pantano deserved a proper shot at F1 but has now been around for far too long without really standing out – he needed to dominate this year, as Timo Glock did last year, but he hasn’t. Bruno Senna currently looks good but was blown away by Mike Conway when they both drove for Double R in F3 – I can’t help but wonder whether he looks good now because he’s driving for one of the better GP2 teams, whereas Conway isn’t. Romain Grosjean was a bit of a force of nature in F3 but has been far too erratic to string together a real challenge. Likewise Sebastien Buemi, although sometimes without the consistently blinding speed that Grosjean has.

    It would have been interesting to see how several former GP2 drivers would have done in F1 – Alexandre Premat (not dissimilar to Grojean), Adam Carroll and Neel Jani are three that spring to mind.

    Formula 3000 generally suffered from being too much of a lottery, with close racing, very limited practice and poor driving standards meaning a driver could win one weekend and be nowhere the next. I sometimes wonder whether GP2 is in danger of going down the same path.

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